“And it came to pass in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, that this word came unto Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Take thee a roll of a book, and write therein all the words that I have spoken unto thee against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spake unto thee, from the days of Josiah, even unto this day. It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do unto them; that they may return every man from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.” (Jeremiah 36:1-3).
You will observe that God recorded His word in writing so that these people – people like you and me – might learn His way and turn from their sins.
God’s Word Accepted
An audience was gathered from Jerusalem and all the cities of Judah. The stage was set on a national day of fasting. “Then read Baruch in the book the words of Jeremiah in the house of the LORD, in the chamber of Gemariah the son of Shaphan the scribe, in the higher court, at the entry of the new gate of the LORD’S house, in the ears of all the people” (Jeremiah 36:10).
All the princes were sitting in the scribe’s chamber and they commanded Baruch to sit down and read the scroll to them. The result was fear (v.16); and they determined to tell the king.
God’s Word Rejected
Gathered in the king’s winter house, with a warm and glowing fire to comfort them, the words of Jehovah were read before the king. With only three or four pages being read, the king took a penknife, cut the scroll and cast it into the fire.
In the midst of his fury the king ignored the pleadings of Elnathan, Delaiah, Gemariah, not to burn the scroll (v.25).
The king then ordered Jerahmeel, Seraiah, and Shelemiah “to take Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet: but the LORD hid them” (v.26). He wanted to punish them for the message they preached.
God’s Word Endured
The Lord reacted to the king’s rebellion by commanding Jeremiah to “Take thee again another roll, and write in it all the former words that were in the first roll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah hath burned” (v.28).
He further commanded Jeremiah to preach unto Jehoiakim king of Judah the following message of reckoning:
(1) “He shall have none to sit upon the throne of David: and (2) his dead body shall be cast out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the frost. (3) I will punish him and his seed and his servants for their iniquity; and (4) I will bring upon them, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and upon the men of Judah, all the evil that I have pronounced against them; but they hearkened not” (vv.29-31).
Jehoiakim had his say, but the Lord would have the final say.
The Spirit of Jehoiakim Lives Still
People continue to take penknives to the Bible. Marshall Keeble once studied with a lady in Wartrace, Tennessee who had taken a penknife to her Bible and removed every passage that mentioned baptism! (Willie Cato, His Hand and His Heart, p. 64)
Few would be as brazen as she. However, in a much more subtle way, many choose to take a penknife to the portions of scripture with which they disagree.
It seems quite often that we encounter someone who has taken a penknife to Matthew 19, and other passages, in order to remove the Lord’s teaching on marriage, divorce, and remarriage.
Moreover, it has become a common practice in congregations to take a penknife to 1 Corinthians 5, and other passages, in order to remove the Lord’s teaching on church discipline.
Anytime the teachings of God are removed from the conscience of man, the spirit of Jehoiakim and his penknife lives on. But, just as with Jehoiakim, God will have the final word.
Men may reject it, refuse it, and even cause others to disbelieve it; but the word of God lives and abides forever (1 Peter 1:23).
God’s word will read the same on the Day of Judgment as it does today (John 12:48), and it makes absolutely no difference whether we believe it or not. Those who choose to take penknives to their Bibles reject the Savior’s words that man shall live by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4). Every word of God on every subject is important and should be respected and obeyed.
“Behold, I come quickly; blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book” (Revelation 22:7).
Would any of us claim that Jehoiakim was an obedient man? While I suppose he did do certain things which were written in the law up to a point, we can see that when God’s law was not agreeable with him, he rejected it. Such is not true obedience.
Jehoiakim was a man who did what he wanted to do – always. Sometimes, his desires happened to coincide with the law. When the law rebuked his desires, he took a penknife to it.
Brethren, let us be mindful, lest we be guilty of doing the same. Let us obey God on every point, not just the ones with which we agree.